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Cheetos Lip Balm & More Bizarre Brand Extensions

When I heard about the new Burger King Whopper Bar, my immediate thought was that it wouldn't be the first place I'd go for a cocktail. Then I read they won't be serving alcohol, and I knew I wouldn't be going to a Whopper Bar any time soon. This also reminded me of Burger King's other recent brand extension "“ a new fragrance called Flame by BK. This meat perfume was obviously a promotional stunt designed to sell more burgers, but in general, corporate brand extensions are serious attempts to grow a brand beyond its initial range of products. Sometimes the tactic works, and other times it just leads to some good comedy.

1. Bic Underwear

We first knew them as the company that made very reliable writing instruments. Then Bic got into the disposable lighter and razor market, and we still bought their products. But we had to draw the line somewhere (get it?!), and the idea of disposable underwear just wasn't that appealing.

2. Cheetos Lip Balm

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Several brands have dipped into the lip balm product category. The basic rule is, 'if it tastes good, why not smear it on your face?' But I don't think works with cheese products. Frito-Lay got in the game in 2005 when they launched Cheetos lip balm. Now maybe it was a great way to experience the delicious joy that is Cheetos, with only a fraction of the calories, but the dozens of negative reviews have convinced me that it was an idea ahead of its time. One thing is certain -- I really want some Cheetos right now.

3. Lifesavers Soda

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Lifesavers Soda was introduced back in the 80s, and was off the shelves not too long after that. It came in five flavors, and apparently did well in taste tests before the launch. But the name just didn't work with the product, as consumers just weren't looking for a candy they could drink.

4. Colgate Kitchen Entrees

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Maybe it's me, but thinking of the taste of toothpaste while enjoying my veal scallopini just doesn't seem appetizing. It's no wonder this brand of microwavable dinner entrees didn't last very long. Not even the potential for a dazzling white smile was enough to drive sales.

5. NASCAR romance novels

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Speed Bumps, In the Groove, Hearts Under Caution "“ they should sell millions of copies based on the titles alone. It was November of 2005 when NASCAR signed a licensing deal with Harlequin Enterprises to put out a series of romance novels. The racing organization was growing their female fan base, and romance novels seemed like a good way to continue the trend. The books are still being sold today, so it seems like this brand extension has been fairly successful. And the pit crews always did need something to do while the drivers are on the track, so I guess it makes sense.

6. Hooters MasterCard

hooters-mastercard.jpgAnd this has to be my favorite. I could've gone with Hooters Air, which closed up shop back in 2006, or used the Hooters energy drink for this list. But I went with the Hooters MasterCard for one main reason: I cannot imagine the stones it takes to whip this baby out when making a purchase. Having a business lunch? Let me pay for that with my Hooters Business Card. Taking the family to Great Adventure? No problem, put all four tickets on the Hooters Gold. There should be a website just for the expressions of the people taking the card as payment. Their website says the card is issued by Merrick Bank, so I don't think it's a joke. Who knows, maybe I'll apply for my own. I've always wanted to see how the other half lives.

These last two were covered by former _flosser Ben Smith last summer...

7. Gerber Singles

gerber singlesPicture 74.pngSounds like something out of an April Fool's Day press release—a baby food company releasing a version of its product for adults. Gerber Singles were no joke, though, and small jars containing fruits, vegetables, starters, and desserts appeared on store shelves in 1974. Clearly it wasn't a good idea. Customers had no interest in eating Creamed Beef out of a baby food jar, and the name of the product, "Singles" couldn't have helped either. As Business 2.0's Susan Casey said, "they might as well have called it "˜I Live Alone and Eat My Meals From a Jar.'"

8. Smith & Wesson Mountain Bikes

Picture 55.pngSmith & Wesson is the largest handgun manufacturer in the United States, and have even made "this home protected by a Smith & Wesson security system" claims true with the release of a security system of sorts. Smart move. A less savvy extension? Introducing a mountain bike. First marketed to police officers, the bikes are now available to all consumers anxious to get their hands on a bike bearing the name of their favorite gun company. And the company is offering a big incentive: customers who add a handgun or set of handcuffs onto their bike purchase won't get charged for shipping and handling.

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A.C. Gilbert, the Toymaker Who (Actually) Saved Christmas 
Travel Salem via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Travel Salem via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Alfred Carlton Gilbert was told he had 15 minutes to convince the United States government not to cancel Christmas.

For hours, he paced the outer hall, awaiting his turn before the Council of National Defense. With him were the tools of his trade: toy submarines, air rifles, and colorful picture books. As government personnel walked by, Gilbert, bashful about his cache of kid things, tried hiding them behind a leather satchel.

Finally, his name was called. It was 1918, the U.S. was embroiled in World War I, and the Council had made an open issue about their deliberation over whether to halt all production of toys indefinitely, turning factories into ammunition centers and even discouraging giving or receiving gifts that holiday season. Instead of toys, they argued, citizens should be spending money on war bonds. Playthings had become inconsequential.

Frantic toymakers persuaded Gilbert, founder of the A.C. Gilbert Company and creator of the popular Erector construction sets, to speak on their behalf. Toys in hand, he faced his own personal firing squad of military generals, policy advisors, and the Secretary of War.

Gilbert held up an air rifle and began to talk. What he’d say next would determine the fate of the entire toy industry.

Even if he had never had to testify on behalf of Christmas toys, A.C. Gilbert would still be remembered for living a remarkable life. Born in Oregon in 1884, Gilbert excelled at athletics, once holding the world record for consecutive chin-ups (39) and earning an Olympic gold medal in the pole vault during the 1908 Games. In 1909, he graduated from Yale School of Medicine with designs on remaining in sports as a health advisor.

But medicine wasn’t where Gilbert found his passion. A lifelong performer of magic, he set his sights on opening a business selling illusionist kits. The Mysto Manufacturing Company didn’t last long, but it proved to Gilbert that he had what it took to own and operate a small shingle. In 1916, three years after introducing the Erector sets, he renamed Mysto the A.C. Gilbert Company.

Erector was a big hit in the burgeoning American toy market, which had typically been fueled by imported toys from Germany. Kids could take the steel beams and make scaffolding, bridges, and other small-development projects. With the toy flying off shelves, Gilbert’s factory in New Haven, Connecticut grew so prosperous that he could afford to offer his employees benefits that were uncommon at the time, like maternity leave and partial medical insurance.

Gilbert’s reputation for being fair and level-headed led the growing toy industry to elect him their president for the newly created Toy Manufacturers of America, an assignment he readily accepted. But almost immediately, his position became something other than ceremonial: His peers began to grow concerned about the country’s involvement in the war and the growing belief that toys were a dispensable effort.

President Woodrow Wilson had appointed a Council of National Defense to debate these kinds of matters. The men were so preoccupied with the consequences of the U.S. marching into a European conflict that something as trivial as a pull-string toy or chemistry set seemed almost insulting to contemplate. Several toy companies agreed to convert to munitions factories, as did Gilbert. But when the Council began discussing a blanket prohibition on toymaking and even gift-giving, Gilbert was given an opportunity to defend his industry.

Before Gilbert was allowed into the Council’s chambers, a Naval guard inspected each toy for any sign of sabotage. Satisfied, he allowed Gilbert in. Among the officials sitting opposite him were Secretary of War Newton Baker and Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels.

“The greatest influences in the life of a boy are his toys,” Gilbert said. “Yet through the toys American manufacturers are turning out, he gets both fun and an education. The American boy is a genuine boy and wants genuine toys."

He drew an air rifle, showing the committee members how a child wielding less-than-lethal weapons could make for a better marksman when he was old enough to become a soldier. He insisted construction toys—like the A.C. Gilbert Erector Set—fostered creative thinking. He told the men that toys provided a valuable escape from the horror stories coming out of combat.

Armed with play objects, a boy’s life could be directed toward “construction, not destruction,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert then laid out his toys for the board to examine. Secretary Daniels grew absorbed with a toy submarine, marveling at the detail and asking Gilbert if it could be bought anywhere in the country. Other officials examined children’s books; one began pushing a train around the table.

The word didn’t come immediately, but the expressions on the faces of the officials told the story: Gilbert had won them over. There would be no toy or gift embargo that year.

Naturally, Gilbert still devoted his work floors to the production efforts for both the first and second world wars. By the 1950s, the A.C. Gilbert Company was dominating the toy business with products that demanded kids be engaged and attentive. Notoriously, he issued a U-238 Atomic Energy Lab, which came complete with four types of uranium ore. “Completely safe and harmless!” the box promised. A Geiger counter was included. At $50 each, Gilbert lost money on it, though his decision to produce it would earn him a certain infamy in toy circles.

“It was not suitable for the same age groups as our simpler chemistry and microscope sets, for instance,” he once said, “and you could not manufacture such a thing as a beginner’s atomic energy lab.”

Gilbert’s company reached an astounding $20 million in sales in 1953. By the mid-1960s, just a few years after Gilbert's death in 1961, it was gone, driven out of business by the apathy of new investors. No one, it seemed, had quite the same passion for play as Gilbert, who had spent over half a century providing fun and educational fare that kids were ecstatic to see under their trees.

When news of the Council’s 1918 decision reached the media, The Boston Globe's front page copy summed up Gilbert’s contribution perfectly: “The Man Who Saved Christmas.”

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holidays
Ho, No: Christmas Trees Will Be Expensive and Scarce This Year
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The annual tradition of picking out the healthiest, densest, biggest tree that you can tie to your car’s roof and stuff in your living room won’t be quite the same this year. According to The New York Times, Christmas trees will be scarce in some parts of the country and markedly more expensive overall.

The reason? Not Krampus, Belsnickel, or Scrooge, but something even more miserly: the American economy. The current situation has roots in 2008, when families were buying fewer trees due to the recession. Because more trees stayed in the ground, tree farms planted fewer seeds that year. And since firs grow in cycles of 8 to 10 years, we’re now arriving at a point where that diminished supply is beginning to impact the tree industry.

New York Times reporter Tiffany Hsu reports that 2017’s healthier holiday spending habits are set to drive up the price of trees as consumers vie for the choicest cuts on the market. In 2008, trees were just under $40 on average. Now, they’re $75 or more.

This doesn’t mean you can’t get a nice tree at a decent price—just that some farms will run out of prime selections more quickly and you might have to settle for something a little less impressive than in years past. Tree industry experts also caution that the shortages could last through 2025.

[h/t New York Times]

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